Level 3 and higher education horticulture students visit Thanet Earth.

Hadlow College Level 3 and higher education horticulture students had an opportunity to visit the pepper glasshouse at Thanet Earth as part of their studies. 

Thanet Earth is a large industrial agriculture and plant factory consortium on the Isle of Thanet, Kent. It is the largest greenhouse complex in the UK, covering 90 hectares (more than 220 acres). A large proportion of the peppers grown at Thanet Earth are now classed as ‘specialty peppers’. 

Thanet Earth grows around 24 million peppers each year in a greenhouse space that would cover more than 12 football pitches. Thanet Earth glasshouses are heated and benefit from CO2 enrichment to encourage crops to grow.

The annual trip allows students to see a real-life commercial pepper grower, experience large scale production and network within the industry. Students saw at first hand aspects of the course that they have covered in the classroom, including crop production, disease and sustainability. Students were lucky enough also to visit the packing facilities, where they were treated to an escorted tour of crops being prepared for supermarket sale.

Students were split into groups to enable them to visit the production area, the irrigation plant, packing facilities and the combined heat and power unit used to heat the greenhouse. Students were amazed by the size and facilities of the glasshouse.

The college is grateful for the support of Thanet Earth in welcoming students on these informative visits and demonstrating best practice.

Caroline Parr, foundation degree student, horticulture level 4, said: “The tour of the packing unit was incredibly informative.  Learning about the technology required for rapid production and the robotic packing facility was really eye opening and impressive.”

She continued: “The innovative biocontrol systems for aphids and parasitic wasps were intriguing. The use of host crops to encourage parasitic wasps to lay their eggs and continue their life cycle was enlightening.”

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